“You have the right to remain silent” is the refrain of just about any criminal television show individuals in Utah may be familiar with. And indeed, per an individual’s “Miranda rights,” in general individuals must be notified that they have the right to remain silent prior to police interrogation or being taken into police custody. If they are not afforded this right, statements they make may not be admissible in court. However, what happens if the individual facing police interrogation is a minor?
According to the United States Supreme Court, an individual’s age must be considered when determining whether or not that individual should be awarded the person’s Miranda rights. In one case that went before the court, a teenage boy, age 13, was suspected of being involved in a couple of burglaries. The authorities went to the youth’s school, took him out of class and placed him into a separate room. The doors to the room were closed, and two school administers were present. The boy did not have his Miranda rights explained to him, and was not told that he had the right to exit the room before the interrogation began. The boy told the authorities he was involved in the burglary, but the officials involved did not notify him that he had the right not to answer any questions posed to him. The boy remained in the room and gave further information about the burglaries in question. The trial judge ruled that the boy’s request to have these statements be deemed as inadmissible should not be granted.
However, the United States Supreme Court ruled that these statements were improperly denied, because the boy was not afforded his Miranda rights. Children may be more likely to acquiesce to authority and therefore may need to have their Miranda rights afforded to them in situations that may differ from those an adult may find the person in.
Therefore, it has been determined that an individual’s age must remain a factor in determining whether a custodial situation exists. Officers should use interrogation techniques that take into account the individual’s age compared to the other circumstances of the interrogation. Miranda warnings are not necessary for every situation in which the police may interrogate a minor, but such cases are subject to scrutiny. Minors do not have the same mental capacity as adults, and should not be considered as such, necessitating specific defense strategies.
Source: FindLaw, “Police Questioning of Minors,” Accessed Jan. 18, 2016